Gambo: October baseball has arrived
The baseball playoffs open today and all four matchups are expected to be hotly contested. No team has swept its way to a World Series title since the Cincinnati Reds did it in 1976 and no team will do it this year.
The Phillies come in as the hottest team having gone 45-19 to close and without question having the best rotation in baseball with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, who by the way went a combined 13-1 since September 1st.
The Reds are in the post-season for the first time in 15 years but they were the comeback kids this year, posting 45 come from behind victories, and they do have a dominant #1 in Edison Volquez who posted a 1.95 ERA in July. The Reds also have championship experience with Bronson Arroyo, the Game 2 starter, Orlando Cabrera and Scott Rolen. And with flame thrower Aroldis Chapman the Reds have a late-inning bullpen stud who can neutralize the Phillies left-handed bats. While I have been on this Reds bandwagon for two years now and love the talent they have, the dominant pitching of Philadelphia will be too much to overcome.
Take the Phillies in 4.
The other National League matchup is bound to feature low-scoring games. Neither San Francisco or Atlanta have much offense. Atlanta is without Martin Prado and Chipper Jones. San Francisco pitching has a 1.91 ERA since September 1st and in 12 games vs. the Giants this year Atlanta scored 37 runs. The Giants offense is not much better hitting just .197 vs. Atlanta this year. With Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez, the Giants have the better starting rotation and the Braves #1 Tim Hudson isn't pitching until Game 3. Big advantage San Francisco.
So take San Francisco in 4 games.
In the American League the best matchup is Tampa Bay vs. Texas. Both have dominant left-handed aces in David Price and Cliff Lee. Texas has never won a post-season series. The Rangers have MVP candidate Josh Hamilton back in the lineup, a dominant bullpen that led the American League in ERA, features three lefthanders and a bunch of hard throwers. After Lee Texas has C.J. Wilson, who won 15 games this year and Colby Lewis. Tampa follows Price with James Shields, who has gone 0-4 with a 7.59 ERA since the start of September and then Matt Garza, who went 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA in his last five starts. Tampa's best offensive player Evan Longoria has also missed the last 10 games with a quad injury. And Tampa is prone to not getting hits, being no-hit twice this year and one-hit once and their .247 team average ranked second to last.
From the Texas perspective, Lee was the most dominant pitcher in the postseason last year but this year he went 0-3 vs. Tampa Bay. This one goes five and although the Rangers are awful on the road I like their bullpen enough to give them the edge - Texas in 5.
The defending World Series Champs lost out on home-field advantage in the AL by losing their last two games to the Red Sox but it may be a blessing in disguise. Instead of facing Texas they get a Minnesota team that they swept last year in the playoffs. But New York has never won a post-season series as a wild card. Minnesota crawled to the finish line this year as its pitching fell a part and the best pitcher in this series is CC Sabathia. Minnesota has a solid bullpen, especially with the additions of Caps and Fuentes but the Yankees have Mariano Rivera and the addition of Kerry Wood has been huge for them. The Yankees bullpen will play a factor because Andy Pettitte hasn't looked dominant in his three starts since returning to the lineup and Phil Hughes may be running on fumes.
With that being said take the Yankees in 4.